AGU Honors for Two Scripps Students


A current and a former student at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, have each received Outstanding Student Paper Awards (OSPAs) from the American Geophysical Union for their presentations made at AGU’s Fall Meeting in December 2013.

Gabe Kooperman, a sixth-year climate science student advised by Scripps climate researcher Richard Somerville, received the honor for a poster describing new methods for modeling summer storms that are crucial to agriculture in the Midwestern United States. Somerville and recent Scripps graduate Michael Pritchard were co-authors of the paper.

The researchers investigated intense organized thunderstorms known as mesoscale convective systems that have been extremely difficult to model and predict with global scale climate models. They documented the existence and realism of these storms in a new type of computer model that has the capability to simulate detailed cloud-scale processes simultaneously with large-scale dynamics. It stands to be a major improvement over previous models that had relied on statistical approximations and typically yielded unreliable results, the scientists said. The model could prove especially beneficial in modeling storm dynamics under various climate change scenarios.

The research was the result of Kooperman, Somerville, and Pritchard’s work at the Center for Multiscale Modeling of Atmospheric Processes (CMMAP), a National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center headquartered at Colorado State University.

“The combination of being a student at Scripps and a member of CMMAP has allowed me to work with one of the most advanced global climate models in the world and closely interact with top researchers here at Scripps, around the country, and abroad,” said Kooperman.

Simon Freeman, who received his doctorate from Scripps in fall 2013, was recognized for his AGU lecture describing his analysis of ambient sounds in the deep ocean to detect seismic signals. Freeman’s advisors at Scripps were ocean acoustician Michael Buckingham and geophysicist Gerald D’Spain.

Freeman reported on the success his research team had recording earthquake events in the Philippine Sea from hydrophone arrays in the deep ocean. They found that seismic sounds in the sea propagate very efficiently and are heard much farther away than earthquake sounds that propagate through the solid earth. Using these sounds, the team found 90 quake events over 12 days of recording as compared to an existing terrestrial seismometer network that picked up only nine events in the same area over the same time. If earthquakes occur along coasts or under the sea, researchers can detect them with far more sensitivity using water-borne seismic signals, Freeman said. 

According to AGU, OSPAs are awarded to promote, recognize and reward undergraduate, Master’s and Ph.D. students for quality research in the geophysical sciences. Kooperman said he attributes his success in part to the breadth of opportunities he has experienced while at Scripps.

“I’ve had the opportunity to attend and present at numerous conferences, even one in Beijing, which were funded by both research grants, and generous support from donors through the Scripps Department Graduate Student Excellence Travel Award program,” he said. “Although my own research is entirely computer modeling based, I was also able to volunteer to participate in a student led research cruise and gain experience with fieldwork and life at sea.”

- Robert Monroe



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